By Aalaa Halaka
Sir Paul Collier, professor of economics and public policy at the Blavantik School of Government, University of Oxford, was our keynote speaker on the 1st plenary session of our 25th annual conference in Kuwait. The theme of the plenary session was “Knowledge, Economic Networks, and Development Policy”, where he addresses the importance of promoting clusters of knowledge to foster transformation across the region.
Sir Paul argues that the MENA region is a youthful one. In a region steaming with calls for change, both to change the status quo and to adapt to global changes all around, he questions whether MENA governments are able to adequately respond with transformation strategies that would allow them to be better off than their parents. Sir Paul contends that current MENA governance that is highly dependent on rents from natural resources, which will inevitably diminish over time, coupled with the natural growth in population size. Just carrying on -business as usual, he says, will simply mean getting poorer.
His proposed alternative for MENA governments for a prosperous and hopeful future, is to work together toward skilling up clusters of knowledge across the different cities of the region. This entails that the responsibility of investing in training of the workforce doesn’t only fall on the government, but is shared with the business community, together with local universities.
While the MENA region has the advantage of geographical proximity and cultural ties, they remain different in many other ways. This means that in attempting at transformation strategies, some will succeed, while some are bound to fail. Sir Collier argues that the ERF has a vital role to play in promoting successful transformation across the region through ushering the transmission of learning from success as well as failure, and to act as a knowledge network that compiles experience, and lessons learnt from experimentation to promote rapid social learning.
The Economic Research Forum’s 25th Annual Conference is held in Kuwait City, on 10-12 March, 2019, under the theme of Knowledge, Research Networks, and Development Policy. . Visit the conference website to find out more about the event and access papers, videos and blogs.